What is Rape?

Rape is a crime and violates the most basic right of a person – the right over one’s body.

What Is Rape?

Rape is sexual intercourse with a woman against her will and without her consent. It’s a crime and violates the most basic right of a person – the right over one’s body.

It is not sex but an expression of violence, anger, and power meant to humiliate their victim. A woman who is raped suffers physical trauma and emotional trauma and she is more often than not, blamed for provoking the crime!

Rape happens because of society’s attitudes and perceptions towards women where women are seen as inferior, treated as sex objects while the men are perceived as superior with a right to behave as they like.

No one deserves rape or sexual assault. A woman should not be blamed for being raped.

If you have been raped or know someone who has been, contact us for help. We provide support to rape victims – face to face counselling, telephone or email counselling, temporary shelter and legal advice. Our services are free and confidential.

Types of Rape

Statutory Rape Any man who has sexual intercourse with a girl 16 years old or younger is considered to have committed statutory rape. The man is guilty of rape as long as sexual intercourse between the two can be proven. Whether the girl has agreed to sexual intercourse or not, the man is guilty of rape. It is because children and teenagers below 16 are deemed legally unable to give consent.

Marital Rape In Malaysia, the Penal Code does not recognize marital rape. Sexual intercourse between a man and his wife (who is above 13) without her consent is not rape unless the man and his wife are divorced or judicially separated or if there is an injunction restraining the husband from having sexual intercourse with his wife (Section 375 of the Penal Code).

This implies that consent to marriage means consent to sex unconditionally. In other words, by entering into marriage, the husband has automatic rights over the wife’s body and as such cannot and should not be charged for rape. He can have sex with her even if she does not consent. Research has shown that the trauma of being raped by husbands is higher than those raped by strangers.

Note: The Malaysian law does not recognize rape within a marriage. But in Section 375A of the Penal Code, a husband who causes hurt, threatens, or hurt his wife in order to have sexual intercourse, shall be punished with imprisonment up to 5 years.

Incest Incest often takes the form of child sexual abuse; the perpetrator normally being a person who breached the survivor’s trust. Any adult person who commits to the incestual act is criminally liable, whether or not the consent was informed or given voluntarily. Protection must be afforded to survivors by allowing them to be charged together with the perpetrator only where their consent was real. Section 376A and 376B only refer to sexual intercourse and do not include other forms of sexual abuse which are equally as traumatising to the survivor.

The age limit in the incest provision poses some limitations. The Federal Constitution which disallows gender as a ground for discrimination, different ages for boys and girls may be unconstitutional. Furthermore, under the Child Act, children are recognised as those under 18 years of age.

Effects of Rape

The violent nature of rape is evidenced by the trauma it causes to the survivors both physically and mentally. The trauma is often compounded by the inappropriate responses given to rape survivors by those around them due to the myths surrounding rape. The trauma symptoms of rape survivors can be understood in two phases:

  • Those immediately following the rape;
  • Those which persist for a long time after the assault

Why Does Rape Happen?

Power A power rape is motivated by a strong need to control and exert power over others which is the most common form of stranger rape. The rapist is called the exploitative rapist where his aim is to force a victim to submit sexually to him. The rapist rapes to compensate for feelings of insecurity and inadequacy which often reflects the need to express strength, control, authority and power.

For the power rapist, the act of rape is a sexual conquest, of expressing his masculinity and manhood. The power rapist seldom uses more violence than he needs to as his goals is not to harm the victim physically but to possess her sexually. Sometimes, there is a combination of anger and power.

The power rapist often denies that the sexual act was forced upon the victim. He even says the victim actually consented, desired him sexually or even claims that she enjoyed the sexual experience. By this, the power rapist attempts to validate his sexual competence. He needs to believe this.

The duration of power rape is relatively longer and the victim may be held over a long period of time and subjected to repeated assaults. As a result of this, the victim may manifest very few signs of physical injury. This may arouse suspicion or even disbelief from others.

Anger The anger rapist is motivated by extreme rage within himself, which eventually explodes and results in rape. It is the result of pent-up hostilities due to some identifiable external even that has recently occurred. Through rape, the anger is removed – at least temporarily. Sex becomes a weapon. Often the anger rapist or displaced anger rapists acts more violently and brutally against the victim than he needs to.

He forces her to perform demeaning acts eg. oral and anal sex – as a way of humiliating and hurting her. The goal of the anger rapist is not sexual gratification but rather to hurt and humiliate his victim – that is, through the invasion of the most personal aspect of the self. Because anger rape involves violence, its duration is short. Then, the anger must be built up again before the rapist strikes again.

Sadistic In sadistic rape, sexuality and aggression become fused as aggression is eroticised. The sadistic rapist takes pleasure in tormenting and inflicting pain upon his victim and finds her suffering and helplessness gratifying. Bondage and torture is usually involved and the rape often has ritualistic quality to it. Contrary to expectation, the sadistic rapist is not blatantly psychotic as he is usually able to conceal these darker impulses.

How Do You Put An End To Rape?

Violence is a means of dominance, control and power. In societies where men are dominant over women or when women are regarded as unequal to men, violence such as rape and domestic violence against women will continue.

Here’s what you can do, if you feel strongly about putting an end to rape:

  • Organize legal literacy campaigns to keep women informed of their rights.
  • Campaign to change attitudes towards women in general and survivors in particular.
  • Treat women with respect e.g. neither making nor tolerating sexist jokes and comments about women.
  • Campaign for changes in police, hospital, and legal procedures for survivors.
  • Campaign to increase women’s consciousness on gender relations and development issues.
  • Campaign for legal reforms to remove laws, which are discriminatory to women and enact laws which will protect the rights of women and children.
  • Educate the people around you by helping to dispel common “rape perceptions.” Rape is never the victim’s fault. Men should know that their violent behaviour is not acceptable.
  • Support our work as well as the work of other women’s organizations that are campaigning to stop violence against women.

Check out useful resources you can use.

Back to Rape page.